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Sun, Fujitsu launches entry quad-core Sparc box

Mostly for developers, sometimes for apps

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Fujitsu and server partner Sun Microsystems will today roll out an entry server based on the quad-core Sparc64 VII processor created by Fujitsu.

The server, code-named "Ikkaku" (Japanese for "narwhal") and sold as the Sparc Enterprise M3000, is a single-socket box that will fill in a product gap in the companies' combined Sparc T and Sparc64 VII product lines.

The Sparc Enterprise M3000 is a single-socket box, and the four cores in that single Sparc64 VII processor run at 2.52 GHz. The processor has 64 KB of L1 data cache and 64 KB of L1 instruction cache per core, and 5 MB of L2 cache on chip shared by the four cores. The motherboard in the system supports up to 32 GB of main memory using 4 GB memory, and has four low-profile PCI-Express x8 peripheral slots. The system uses the same "Jupiter" server bus as larger Sparc Enterprise M servers to link the components of the system together. That system bus has 17 GB/sec of peak aggregate bandwidth and 4 GB/sec of I/O bandwidth. The server comes in a 2U rack-mounted form factor and has room for two 2.5-inch SAS drives and a DVD drive - the disks come in 146 GB capacities.

According to Sun, the M3000 has about twice the performance of the entry servers using its UltraSparc-IIIi processors from a few years back, but uses about half as much energy and space as that old Sun box.

John Fowler, the executive vice president in charge of Sun's Systems Group, says that the M3000 is being brought to market for a few reasons. For one thing, customers who deploy larger Jupiter systems usually do so with an n-tier architecture, with bigger servers running the databases behind the applications and Web and application servers accessing the data and running the application code that feeds and feeds off the databases. While some companies don't mind mixing different kinds of database and application servers, others do and Sun and Fujitsu needed a smaller server to be an application tier for midrange customers.

Moreover, companies deploying Jupiter machines in the data center want to give developers the same iron and Solaris software stack to work on, and paying for a midrange machine or a slice of a larger system is a lot more expensive than a dedicated entry server. The machine is rated at 47 decibels, which Sun says is at about the same level as a quiet office, so programmers can tuck one into their cubicles. A tower server would be more programmer-friendly, of course. Then again, there is no reason why the programmer needs to sit next to the server he or she is using to develop code - that's what we have networks for.

And still other customers who use Sparc iron want more single-threaded performance in an entry box than the multi-core "Niagara" family of servers deliver. Some applications like threads and don't mind the relatively low clock speed of the Sparc T series of chips, while others do. The M3000 is for those apps that do mind.

There was some talk in Sun and Fujitsu presentations about the M3000 being used in HPC clusters, too, and while Fowler did not deny that this might happen, he didn't sound like it was business that Sun was counting on. Fujitsu's chances for selling clusters of M3000s might be better back in Japan.

The Sparc Enterprise M3000 is available now. It supports the Solaris 10 10/08 Update that is due any day now. A base machine with the single processor, 4 GB of main memory, two 146 GB disks, a DVD drive, and a Solaris 10 license costs $15,000.

With the M3000, Sun and Fujitsu have launched a second generation of their "Advanced Product Line" jointly developed Sparc iron, and that seems to be it until next year, when the Sparc64 VII+ kickers come out. You can read what little has been said about these future chips here. ®

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